TODAY would have been the late Princess Margaret’s birthday. I never ever did send her a card. Why would I have done? She never ever sent one to me. As you might have guessed by now, Margaret and I shared the same birthday — August 21st.

 

True, she was always quite a few years older than me but I am secure in the knowledge that if anyone were ever to ask me what I was doing on the Princess’s 16th birthday I could reply without hesitation that I was being born at Crossley’s, the Salvation Army hospital in Ancoats, Manchester.

 

And while we’re on the subject, it might interest you to know that my son shares his birthday with the Duke of Edinburgh on June 10th.

 

However, my family’s royal births link ends there. My daughter was born on December 28th which suggests she was either a belated Christmas present or an early New Year gift.

 

As for Mrs S, she doesn’t figure in any of this because she has refused to acknowledge her birthdays since 1989.

 

Anyway, why my mother chose to have me in a Salvation Army hospital I don’t know. Indeed, I haven’t the foggiest notion as to why she bothered having me at all.

 

Notwithstanding the biological premise that pregnancy is a process which has to come to a conclusion, I really haven’t a clue as to why I was given the nod by the Great Casting Director in the Heavens to become yet another bit-part player on the world stage.

 

I am paraphrasing Shakespeare here and that was the bloke who had the misfortune to allegedly die on his 52nd birthday — blown out along with his candles as it were.

 

‘Is there any point to your wittering-on about the Salvation Army and Shakespeare and his candles?’ asked Dave the barman at the pub two nights ago.

 

‘There certainly is,’ I replied. ‘I’m simply reminding you that in 48 hours’ time you will be putting on a surprise birthday party for me.’

 

‘You don’t mince your words, do you, David?’ observed the leader of — and the only female in — our little group. Andromeda Arkwright was loved by all the male pubsters and particularly adored by Dave the barman because Andromeda bought most of the drinks for the lads.

 

‘Sorry,’ I mumbled. ‘It’s just that I’ve tended to hide in the background ever since I was a child.’

 

Andromeda Arkwright tutted in sympathy. ‘Do you mean to tell us that your parents never made you feel special by throwing you a birthday celebration on the most special annual occasion of your life?’

 

‘Of course they held a party for me,’ I replied. ‘But apart from Mother and Dad and my older brother, there was also a motley collection of domestic pets in the house so I wasn’t much able to bask in the limelight.

 

‘Of course, Rover was the special child,’ I grumbled on.

 

‘What!’ gasped Daft Barry. ‘Your big brother was called Rover?’

 

‘Nah,’ I said. ‘That was our scruffy mongrel’s name. Rover plus Tiddles the Cat and Joey the budgie were also my mother’s children. But don’t get me wrong. My brother and I were loved by our parents. It’s just that at mealtimes the animals got the best crockery and first use of the condiments.’

 

‘Ah!’ commented Andromeda Arkwright. ‘Dysfunctional family.’

 

‘I disagree,’ said Daft Barry, misunderstanding Andromeda. ”Dis family is NOT functional.’

 

‘Enough!’ cried Dave the barman. ‘I swear I’ll shut the pub forever if this stupid conversation does not stop forthwith and somebody buys a round of drinks.’

 

Andromeda Arkwright placed money on the bar and looked around. ‘But there’s hardly anybody here.’

 

Dave the barman sighed. ‘Those traitors Indoor Lou, Fearful Phil and the rest of those rascals have gone to another pub tonight.’

 

‘But why?’ chorused an incredulous Daft Barry and me.

 

Dave the barman almost spat out his bitter response. ‘Because someone is having a surprise birthday party at the other pub — which I refuse to name because it gets more customers than mine does — and it turns out that those treacherous, back-stabbing alleged friends of ours would rather patronise a different establishment than bum booze from my hostelry.’

 

What Dave the barman omitted to mention was that any other pub’s drinks might be a pleasant change and certainly more preferable than his own diluted ales and spirits.

 

Anyway, while Dave the barman paused to collect his breath, I interjected: ‘But what about MY surprise birthday party two days hence?’

 

Dave the barman sighed. ‘That’s the surprise. You’re NOT having one.’

 

I shook my head in despair and muttered: ‘The ghost of Rover continues to wag its tail.’

 

Dave the barman continued to rant about his absent regulars. ‘They are unfaithful, perfidious, two-faced, false-hearted, duplicitous, deceitful, false, untrue, untrustworthy, unreliable, undependable, fickle and two-timing. Really, I can think of no words to describe them.

 

‘Even Fag Ash Bill has gone to that other pub for the birthday bash. True, he can only stand outside on the pavement to smoke his ciggies but it’s the principle of the thing.’

 

Our leader Andromeda Arkwright had been quiet up to now but all eyes (well, the few that were actually in the pub) turned to her as she spoke. ‘I shall have a word with our absentee friends when they return to their second home tomorrow. And you, Dave Silver, SHALL go to the ball. I promise you a surprise birthday party on Friday night.’

 

Wow, I thought. In one stroke, the lovely Andromeda Arkwright had restored my self-esteem. I was standing tall.

 

At least I thought I was standing tall. It turned out that I’d actually stepped on the prostrate form of our former guide and mentor Ol’ Red Eyes who as usual was semi-comatose on the carpet.

 

The old beggar now opened one rheumy peeper and announced: ‘I shan’t be attending your surprise birthday bash, Dave Silver. I’ll be winding down after my hectic week.’

 

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